PinkAvo — Repurposing food waste and upcycling textiles with natural dyes

Location:

Exeter, NH

Date:

04 May, 2019

Services:

Sustainability, Business

PinkAvo — a clean-tech startup

2018 was a calamitous year for the environment: the Woolsey and Camp Fires devastated both ends of California; the IPCC Global Warming of 1.5°C special report revealed the necessity of limiting global warming; the US government, according to the Senate Climate Change Task Force, made over 100 significant anti-environmental decisions. In the face of those events, I felt compelled to spearhead an environmental movement on campus.

I was already leading several environmental clubs and initiatives, but I wanted to do something more impactful; I felt that environmental activism within the school was wonderful but limited in its influence. After some literature review, food audits, and interviews with local restaurants, I drafted some friends to tackle two issues that stood out to me in the wider community: fast fashion and food waste. We resolved to upcycle textiles using natural dye from food waste, thus killing two birds with one stone. We focused on one food item due to its local abundance and usefulness: avocados.

This venture, dubbed PinkAvo, uses avocado pits and skins that would have otherwise gone to the landfill to create biodegradable plastic and natural dye for textiles. Through the process, we collaborated with a number of local and global businesses. At local restaurants, I marketed the project and set up bins to collect avocado pits and skins. I also regularly corresponded with Chipotle’s sustainability team to talk about their natural dye project and test results.

After numerous trials, we finally found the right combination of materials, processing time, and mordant for our desired color and dye durability. But the work didn’t stop there; we moved onto our next challenge: the leftover avocado pits. After reading more papers, watching videos, and consulting teachers, I discovered we could turn pits into bioplastic. However, drying the extracted starch into starch powder proved difficult, as the winter climate prevented quick evaporation; other methods, such as baking and boiling, also proved either inconvenient or ineffective.

I settled on evaporation and let the moisture in the starch slowly turn into vapor. In the meantime, I began experimenting with other types of starch as a proof-of-concept for our avocado bioplastic. After many attempts with various recipes, I finally created a durable and flexible prototype. Soon enough, I even gathered enough avocado starch powder to synthesize a bioplastic bowl!

We finally had some working products to build a business model around, so I immediately set to work partnering with a local thrift shop. I set up some meetings and it all worked out. Soon, we upcycled some of their second-hand clothing into a line of pastel-pink, eco-friendly clothing!

PinkAvo was an educational experience that allowed me to work with other businesses, develop a business model, create MVPs, and more. I accomplished much more than I originally sought out to do: upcycling textiles with the lovely avocado-based dyes and even synthesizing bioplastic using the leftover pits. By interweaving my business acumen and technical skills, I addressed two significant environmental issues in my community through entrepreneurship!

Pitch Deck (PDF Download Link): PinkAvo Pitch Deck